Emalahleni municipality’s Eskom debt is still growing, with the embattled municipality now owing the power giant R2.9 billion.
The municipality’s outstanding account to creditors for June was R3.3 billion, reports Witbank News.
This includes R2.9 billion owed to Eskom and R192 million owed to the national department of water and sanitation (DWS).
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The staggering Eskom figures leave a lot of debate hanging in the air, and residents want to know whether the municipality pays Eskom at all.
The municipality’s current Eskom account is R176,476,973.60. The overdue amount is R2,765,622,205.56.
According to municipal spokesperson Lebo Mofokeng, the amount of R192,068,903.05 owed to the DWS is under dispute, as they invoiced the municipality R29 million in May instead of R5 million.
“A meeting with the department has been requested and we are awaiting the date of confirmation for the meeting.”
The overdue Eskom account is not a new issue for the municipality.
Community group Save Emalahleni Action Group left the High Court in Middelburg in October last year exhausted but satisfied with the court ruling that prevented Eskom from implement bulk electricity interruptions.
The ruling, handed down by Judge Rene Tolmay, brought to an end an epic saga which started in February 2017 when Eskom started implementing interruptions after the municipality failed to settle its growing debt.
The Save Emalahleni Group stepped in and successfully prevented Eskom from flicking the switch.
Legal history was made when the community group became the first in South Africa to obtain a court order against a provincial executive to compel them to comply with their constitutional obligations to intervene into the affairs of a municipality.
This compelled provincial government to intervene and take an in-depth look into the matters of Emalahleni Local Municipality.
What followed was a financial recovery plan.
“This plan is clearly not working,” said John Cornish, an outspoken local resident.
Cornish said the ever-increasing Eskom debt and the failure to deliver basic municipal services is enough evidence to conclude that the financial recovery plan is failing.
When the Eskom account was still at R1.8 billion, the Democratic Alliance (DA) advised the provincial government to place the municipality under administration and ring-fence ratepayers’ monthly electricity to be paid directly to Eskom and not to the municipality.
“They refused, and instead, Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane decided to deploy a task team to look at the finances of the municipality,” said Trudie Grovè-Morgan, MPL and DA spokesperson on department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs.
Grovè-Morgan said residents should not suffer due to municipal mismanagement and bad governance.